The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Know Your Bible Lesson 25: Reasons to Hope

KYB 25

AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

At the end of our last lesson, we learned that good King Hezekiah’s twelve-year-old son Manasseh takes the throne after he dies. Manasseh is going to be super evil. The author of Kings tells us that “Manasseh shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end” (2 Ki. 21:16). We don’t know how the prophets Isaiah and Micah died (although you’ll find many dramatic speculations floating about the internet).  It’s quite possible that they ended up as two of Manasseh’s victims, along with many other prophets of God. We saw the prophets being systematically hunted down and destroyed during the reign of the wicked Ahab and Jezebel. In Period 7, Jesus will confirm that Jerusalem is notorious for slaughtering God’s prophets when He sarcastically quips:

“In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day— for it cannot be that a prophet would die outside of Jerusalem!” (Luke 13:33)

So once again we find ourselves with a ruler who delights in the slaughter of the innocent. Clearly he deserves a double frowny.

Manasseh

Now before we talk about nasty Manasseh and find out how God responded to the little creep, there are a couple of important themes our prophets have been talking about for many years now which need some attention.

REASONS TO HOPE

By now we’ve learned that one of God’s main purposes in raising up prophets is to address rebellion. This is why so many of the prophetic messages we read about in the Bible are so grim. It’s the fakers who talk incessantly about blessings—but the real guys are often focused on current issues of rebellion.

As we learned in Lesson 22, when Yahweh raises up prophets like Isaiah and Micah to address a whole nation of people, He is really talking to the whole world. The messages of the prophets spread like wildfire and soon all the nations knew the particulars of what Yahweh was threatening to do to those who were rebelling against Him. When those threats were later fulfilled, those same nations gained a whole new respect for Yahweh and hopefully some souls began to sincerely revere Him. So here is a key principle we can add to our list of insights: authentic prophecy will always turn our attention onto God and exalt Him in some way. God always points back to Himself. This means that any so-called prophet who exalts someone other than God is an obvious counterfeit and we’d be foolish to listen to anything he has to say.

Now not everyone in the land of Judah hates God. There is a small remnant of souls living in these times who sincerely care about pleasing Yahweh, and it’s more than a little depressing for them to hear the prophets constantly preaching about coming doom and destruction. Certainly, the obedient souls understand why Yahweh is so angry. But is He going to sweep the good out with the bad? Doesn’t He have anything encouraging to say to those who are still trying? Yes, He does, and encouraging words have been sprinkled into the messages of Amos, Hosea, Micah and Isaiah. Because Isaiah is a much longer book, we find a lot more encouragement in it, and this is why Isaiah is one of the more commonly quoted prophetic books. We Christians like to focus on the positive passages—especially the prophecies about a coming Messiah. It’s exciting for us to read over ancient words and know that they were talking about our beloved Jesus. But if we’re going to get to know God better, we can’t just read the Old Testament through the eyes of post-cross Christians. We also need to think about what these ancient messages sounded like to their original audiences.

A COMING KING

Suppose you were a Jew living at the time of Isaiah. You’re one of the few souls in Judah who sincerely care about Yahweh, and you know that Judah has a long history of evil rulers. The land is full of idol shrines and altars. Everyone is wallowing in evil. The justice system is a joke. The priests and community leaders are all corrupt. A bunch of prophets and sorcerers are running around telling fortunes for money. Yahweh’s Name is being abused on a daily basis and no one seems to care. The king himself is worshiping idols, so you can’t expect any help from him. How you wish you could have lived back during the days of King David—a truly reverent man who sought after God with all of his heart. You’ve heard so many glorious things about David’s reign. If only another king like him would come along—then things would surely turn around. Perhaps Israel and Judah would even become one nation again as God intended.

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of Yahweh will rest on Him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of Yahweh— and He will delight in the fear of Yahweh.” (Isa. 11:1-3)

What is this that Yahweh is saying through the prophet Isaiah? It sounds like another righteous King is coming after all—a descendant of Jesse, the father of David. He will have the Holy Spirit resting on Him just as David did—and He will delight in revering Yahweh. Well, this is very good news indeed!

“He will not judge by what He sees with His eyes, or decide by what He hears with His ears; but with righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth; with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be His belt and faithfulness the sash around His waist.” (Isa. 11:4-5)

Better and better! This coming King sounds like your dream come true! He’s going to be fair, and strong. He will be aggressive in stomping out wickedness and He will uphold the cause of the poor and needy.

“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all My holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of Yahweh just as the waters cover the sea.

In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to Him, and His resting place will be glorious.” (Isa. 11:6-10)

Wonderful! A kingdom filled with peace where war, crime and violence are forgotten—this new King is going to be awesome! No wonder all the nations will gather to God’s holy mountain of Jerusalem—with such a righteous King on the throne, everyone will want to become a citizen of Judah! But how soon will He come? After all, Yahweh has already scattered all the Jews of the north to distant lands. There are countless Jews from Judah who have been dragged off by raiders and sold as slaves to God only knows where. Yahweh’s people are scattered all over the world by now. Will they get to come home when this new glorious King takes the throne in Jerusalem?

“In that day Yahweh will reach out His hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of His people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean.

He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; He will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth. Ephraim’s jealousy will vanish, and Judah’s enemies will be destroyed; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim. They will swoop down on the slopes of Philistia to the west; together they will plunder the people to the east. They will subdue Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites will be subject to them. Yahweh will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian sea; with a scorching wind He will sweep His hand over the Euphrates River. He will break it up into seven streams so that anyone can cross over in sandals. There will be a highway for the remnant of His people that is left from Assyria, as there was for Israel when they came up from Egypt.” (Isa. 11:11-16)

This is more wonderful news! Yahweh is going to regather all of His people and reunite the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Then He’ll give them victory over all of their enemies—those nasty Philistines, Edomites, Moabites and Ammonites. Israel will once again be one unified kingdom that dominates all those around her—just like it was in King David’s time. Yahweh will bring back all the Israelites who just got hauled off by the Assyrians in the north—He’ll lead them back home just as He led the ancestors of Israel out of Egypt all those years ago. Wow! This is so encouraging!

“In that day you will say: ‘I will praise You, Yahweh. Although You were angry with me, Your anger has turned away and You have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. Yahweh, Yahweh Himself, is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation.’ With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

In that day you will say: ‘Give praise to Yahweh, proclaim His Name; make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His Name is exalted. Sing to Yahweh, for He has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.’” (Isa. 12:1-6)

Amen! Preach it, Isaiah! If you lived during these times, you’d want to be whooping for joy over these exciting messages. You’d probably be living during the days of wicked King Ahaz—that sleaze who is pumping out more Baal idols and throwing his live children into flames so they can be barbecued alive to some grotesque statue (see Lesson 22). You really need to hear that better days are coming. Every time you walked by the Valley of Ben-Himmon—a favorite spot for child sacrifice in Judah—you’d feel sick to your stomach with horror. You’d hear the sounds of babies screaming in the distance, you’d see adults walking around with grotesque scars from where they’d slashed themselves with knives to get Baal’s attention. You’d see prostitutes on every corner and you’d get grossly cheated every time you went to buy food at the market. These are dark, dark times in Judah. Evil is running rampant and no one is doing a thing to stop it. Then Yahweh starts talking about a new King who is going to come and set everything right again. Yes! Please hurry, Yahweh!

The passage we’ve just reviewed above (Isaiah 11) is one of many Messianic passages in the Old Testament—meaning, it’s a passage that’s talking about the coming of Christ. But it’s vital to understand that in the mind of ancient Jews, these passages weren’t about a spiritual Savior. What they heard were promises of a glorious King and Jerusalem being restored to some kind of world power.

Now today in the Church, we read through Old Testament Messianic passages and then we say it was oh so obvious that Christ was coming to die for the sins of the world. “Look, it’s right there in the text,” we say. “So how could the Jews miss it?” But do you know what else the text says? It says that God lies. It says that He changes His mind, and that He commands the demonic ranks, and that He is the ultimate Source of both good and evil. Yet today most Christians adamantly deny these things. Come now, it’s right there in the text, so how can we miss it? It’s called selective reading. We filter out the truths we don’t want to face or the things that make us uncomfortable. We do this today about aspects of God that we’re uncomfortable with, and the Jews did it about aspects of their coming king that they were uncomfortable with.

“Behold, My Servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted. His face and His whole appearance were marred more than any man’s, and His form beyond that of the sons of men—but just as many were astonished at Him, so shall He startle and sprinkle many nations, and kings shall shut their mouths because of Him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of Yahweh been revealed? He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem.

Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and Yahweh has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away. Yet who of His generation protested? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people He was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.

Yet it pleased Yahweh to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though Yahweh makes His life a guilt offering for sin, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of Yahweh will prosper in His hand. After He has suffered, He will see the light of life and be satisfied; by His knowledge My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give Him a portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong, because He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isa. 52:13-53:12)

This is one of the most famous Messianic passages in the entire Bible. Today, we read it and say, “There it is! So obviously Christ! So obviously the cross!” But no, it wasn’t obvious at all to the ancient Jews. First of all, no one had ever heard of a cross. To them the sprinkling of blood refers to the high priest sprinkling blood in the Most Holy Place to atone for the sins of the people. And of course they understand the reference to a guilt offering, but this passage is filled with nonsensical contradictions. One minute it sounds like Yahweh is describing a sin offering—something being sacrificed to take away the sins of people. But this can’t really be what He’s talking about because He says it all wrong. First of all, a lamb had to be without blemish to be acceptable as a sin offering. In this passage it sounds like the sacrifice is horribly disfigured—Yahweh would never accept something like that. Second, a lamb was killed quickly and cleanly by the priests—it wasn’t bludgeoned to death, as this passage seems to imply. Third—and this is super obvious—people can’t be sin offerings. Yahweh only accepts animal sacrifices for sins, He strictly forbids human sacrifices. So either Isaiah is smoking something, or Yahweh is talking about—well, we don’t really know what Yahweh is talking about. Some guy who gets a lot of points with Yahweh before He’s slaughtered by His enemies. Sounds like a prophet, maybe? Hm. But even the death of a prophet wouldn’t atone for anyone’s sins so—oh, forget it. We have no idea what Isaiah is talking about. Let’s get back to the part where the mighty King comes and makes Jerusalem a world power.

No matter how many Messianic passages we can quote today, there’s no getting around the fact that Jesus’ death on a cross was a complete violation of Yahweh’s Old Covenant requirements for how sins were to be atoned for. According to Yahweh’s own specifications, the cross should never have been accepted as an atonement for sin. Jesus died when the Old Covenant was still in effect, and He promotes Himself as the ultimate atonement sacrifice—which He is, but only because Yahweh throws all of His Laws out of the window where Christ is concerned. In our last lesson, we learned about how God lives above His own rules. What’s wrong for us is right for Him, for He can do whatever He wants. It’s important to realize just how nonsensical the whole cross event was.  People do not atone for the sins of other people. This is a completely ludicrous idea under the Old Covenant. So when Isaiah comes along talking about some suffering Servant who bears our transgressions, is anyone grasping what he’s talking about? No, and they don’t care. The righteous just want to know when Yahweh is going to fix everything and the rebels just want Isaiah to either shut up or find a different corner to preach on. No one is within a thousand mental miles of expecting someone like Jesus to come along.

Even though He knows that everyone is completely misinterpreting His messages about a coming Messiah-King, Yahweh keeps dropping hints about what this Man will be like. Here’s a summary of the descriptions we get from Micah and Isaiah: Messiah

DECEIVING PROMISES

In our last lesson, we talked about how Yahweh intentionally deceived the world by claiming to be the only God in existence, when in reality there are three Gods—Yahweh, Jesus, and the magnificent Holy Spirit. Well, as we near the end of Period 5, Yahweh is throwing more deception our way as He leads the Jews to expect some mighty warrior-king to suddenly appear and rescue them all from bondage. He paints detailed pictures of happier days when Jerusalem will reach new heights of glory and the whole world will be traveling to see her. He alternates between describing a period of total peace on earth and describing the Jews as victoriously warring against all of their enemies. All of this sounds wonderful in the ears of righteous Jews who are longing for better days. But in real life, Yahweh knows they aren’t going to see any of it. The people who are alive at this time and listening to the words of Isaiah are going to be in for a lot more suffering. If they live during Hezekiah’s reign, they’ll experience some spiritual revival, but they’ll also be around for the terrifying attacks from Assyria (see the previous lesson). If they live beyond Hezekiah, they’ll be around for the wicked Manasseh who is going to make their lives a living hell. If they survive Manasseh, they’ll surely die during the reign of his son, who is also going to be a creep. Not a single soul who was part of the original audience of these wonderful prophecies is ever going to see them fulfilled. And to make matters worse, most of what Yahweh is saying is never going to happen the way He says it’s going to happen. For example, Israel is never going to become a world power. There will never be peace on earth. All the nations will never flock to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship Yahweh. The Temple is long gone, and even if some fool were to rebuild it, it would have no value whatsoever because Yahweh has changed His Covenant with men. The old rules have been thrown out, along with the entire sacrificial system and the need for a centralized place of worship. So when we find Yahweh waxing on about that glorious Temple in the future which all the nations flock to—well, it’s not going to happen.

Now it will come about in the last days that the mountain on which Yahweh’s Temple stands will become the most important of all mountains. It will be raised above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the Temple of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.”

For the Law will go forth from Zion and the word of Yahweh will go out from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations, and make decisions for many peoples. Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, for nations will no longer fight against other nations, nor will anyone train for war. (Isa. 2:2-4)

Have you ever felt like God intentionally led you to expect something that He knew all along was never going to happen? You’re not delusional.  God does do this sort of thing–and He does it a lot. The Bible is filled with examples of both Yahweh and Jesus amping up people’s hopes and leading them to expect certain things to occur in their lifetimes. Abraham expected to see some evidence of a great nation coming from his line. Instead, he died knowing that his son Isaac was married to a barren woman. How deflating. The New Testament apostles were clearly convinced that they were living in the end times and that Jesus would be coming back any second—what a lot of wasted hope that was. How many souls has God strung along with promises, inferences, and hints that He knew He had no intention of fulfilling? By now, the number is countless. If you yourself have been a victim of God’s empty promises, then you know how bitter the experience can be, for as King Solomon said in Proverbs 13:11, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

So then, where do we go with this? We have Gods who deceive and purposely mislead us. So much for Sunday School Jesus who is all sweetness and light. And yet if we’re going to develop joyful intimacy with our Makers, we need to face these upsetting truths about Them. Yes, They do deceive us, but They do so in order to help us. This isn’t so hard for us humans to grasp, for we lie to our children all the time in order to shelter them from overwhelming fears and distress. When a tornado is barreling towards a house and a mother is crouching down in the basement with her children, she knows that this situation could get very ugly. She knows she is not in control. Yet when her children start to whimper in fear, she will pull them closer and say in a confident voice, “Everything is going to be alright. Mommy won’t let anything happen to you.” Are these promises she can keep? Not at all, but her words are very powerful and they give her children something to cling to in the midst of a frightening situation. In the same way, when the Holy Spirit leads us into some long, bitter period of suffering, He often brings on the comforting assurances. “It won’t be much longer,” He whispers to us for years until we finally get fed up with hearing it. The day comes when we accuse Him of lying, because “longer” has come and gone and there’s still no end in sight. Yet where would we be if God wasn’t always putting some glimmer of hope on the horizon to distract us from the present darkness? How would the righteous Jews in Judah find strength to keep pressing on if all they ever heard about was how Yahweh was about to come and trash the place? How could any of us carry on in life if we knew our lives would be nothing but misery? This is why God prevents us from seeing into our futures—He knows the things we see would frighten us and He also knows we would fixate on the negatives.

If God told you that you’d become a millionaire but that you’d also lose the greatest love of your life, which point would you spend more time dwelling on? The negative one, of course. And you’d focus on it so much that it would make you incapable of enjoying the blessings God wanted to bring with it. So God doesn’t reveal the future to us ahead of time. Instead, He encourages us to keep our focus on the present and on Him, our Source of Hope and Joy. Because when it comes right down to it, we don’t need promises that our circumstances will get better. We just need God to be in those circumstances with us.

When God brings trials and suffering into our lives, He already knows that He will bring us safely through them. But we don’t know this. Instead, we panic and despair and conclude that all is lost. So God gives us reassurances, just like that mom who is huddled in the basement: “It will be alright. I will be with you. I won’t let anything bad happen to you.” Now in real life, God won’t always be with us the way that we want Him to be—meaning we won’t always be able to emotionally sense His Presence in some warm and fuzzy way. And He will let bad things happen to us—sometimes horrible, shocking things. But we don’t need to take all of this on at once—indeed, we can’t. When those things happen, God will get us through them one by one. And He will be with us, whether we sense Him there or not.

When God intentionally misleads us, it is often to shield us from truths that He knows we’re not ready to handle or to prevent us from fixating on things which are irrelevant to our situation. The Jews living in Isaiah’s time really didn’t need to understand all the nitty gritty details about who Christ is and how He would one day pay for the sins of the world. They would be long dead before Christ ever came, and for Yahweh to fully explain about His Son at this early date would just confuse everyone. Yahweh doesn’t want the world to know about Jesus yet—He doesn’t want Jesus being worshiped or focused on. So He keeps Him hidden, and intentionally uses vague, symbolic language when talking about Him so that the Jews will think they’re just looking forward to some influential David-like human being.

When it comes to encouraging His righteous followers to keep hanging on, Yahweh breaks out comforting images of a future in which righteousness fills the world and all violence ceases. He describes Jerusalem and the Temple as being exalted in glory. He talks about Israel stomping on all of her enemies. Now of course none of these things are going to literally occur, yet the essence of these promises will still come true. For when these righteous souls die and arrive in Heaven, they will discover a place that is filled with righteousness and peace—one in which everyone reveres the one true God. So in a sense, Yahweh is giving His people real hope and He is going to actually end up blessing them far more than they expect even when they take all of His promises literally. And by the time these souls get to Heaven, are they going to care about the fact that Yahweh misled them by the language He chose to use? Not hardly. But because Yahweh puts things the way He does, these souls will find the motivation they need to keep persevering through difficult times. This brings us to another key insight about God: He operates on a “the end justifies the means” basis. God will not hesitate to lie, mislead, break, crush, or stretch us to our breaking point in order to accomplish some spiritual goal in our lives. He wants each of us to experience His absolute best. This is why the more devoted we are to God, the more intense our training becomes. It is only when we consistently refuse God’s invitations that He finally backs off and settles for giving us less than we could have had. But for those who have prayed, “I want to be as close to You as I possibly can,” it is no holds barred. God is faithful, and He will do whatever it takes to ensure that we experience our full reward when our souls have completely surrendered to Him.

GOD IS FAIR

When we look around at the world and feel like evil is winning the day, we naturally begin to question God’s justice. After all, if God is so good and fair, why is He letting all of this terrible stuff happen? Through the mouths of His prophets, Yahweh addresses these concerns by not only emphasizing how aware He is of everything that’s going on, but also that He has already made plans to deal with it. We all need to know that good will prevail in the end. We need to know that someday God will make things right again. God is the One who has put this craving for justice inside of us—and if we couldn’t be sure that He really is going to fix everything, then we’d have to conclude He is a pretty lousy Ruler. Put yourself in the sandals of a frustrated follower of Yahweh who is slugging it out in the midst of a wicked Jerusalem as you hear Isaiah calling out these words:

“But as for you who forsake Yahweh and forget My holy mountain, who spread a table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you for the sword, and all of you will fall in the slaughter; because I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. You did evil in My sight and chose what displeases Me.”

Therefore this is what the Sovereign Yahweh says: “My servants will eat, but you will go hungry; My servants will drink, but you will go thirsty; My servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame. My servants will shout joyfully with a glad heart, but you will cry out with a heavy heart and wail with a broken spirit.” (Isa. 65:11-14)

Yes! Good! Yahweh is going to destroy all these wicked rebels and reward His faithful people! Those who obey God will be the winners in the end—they’ll be the ones collecting His rewards while the wicked suffer. This is the same kind of message that Jesus will give hundreds of years in the future as He gives John a vision on the island of Patmos. We try to get all mystical about the book of Revelation today, but really it’s just like all the other prophetic books in the Bible. It promises terrible suffering to those who refuse to obey God and it promises the glorious rewards to the faithful few. How inspiring to see our God encouraging His faithful followers so long ago. How comforting to know that He sees and cares about what’s happening in our lives.

Being picked on for being faithful to God is nothing new. All throughout the Bible, God’s faithful few have been harassed. Moses was almost murdered in cold blood several times by the mob he was trying to lead through the wilderness back in Period 2. Elijah was hunted by the bloodthirsty Jezebel. Here in Isaiah’s time, the righteous remnant in Jerusalem are getting plenty of flak from their peers because they’re not participating in all the idol worship and crime. Have you ever wondered if God really understands how painful it is for you to be excluded by other people just because you’re a Christian? Well, back in these times certain Jews no doubt wondered if Yahweh understood how miserable it was for them. He did. And just to make sure they knew that He did, He spoke directly to them through the mouths of His prophets.

Hear the word of Yahweh, you who tremble at His word: “Your own people who hate you, and who exclude you because of My Name, have sarcastically said, ‘Let Yahweh be glorified, that we may see your joy!’ Yet they will be put to shame. Hear that uproar from the city, hear that noise from the Temple! It is the sound of Yahweh repaying His enemies all that they deserve.” (Isa. 66:5-6)

Those who tremble at Yahweh’s word are trembling in reverential fear—Yahweh is talking to the good guys in this passage. Notice how He describes the harassment His people are getting, proving that He is paying close attention to them. This would be like Jesus appearing in your bedroom today and saying, “I know all about how you’re getting snubbed at work because you’re trying to do right in My eyes. I hear the way they mock you and the jokes they make at your expense. Take heart—I’m going to grind those people into the dirt. Your enemies are My enemies because they hate you for My sake.” This is really awesome.

Today we often hear that the God of the Old Testament was an aloof, brooding Deity who didn’t get personal with His people. Today we’re taught that the New Covenant is so exciting because it is the first time that God has really come close to us. Well, this just isn’t true. Yahweh is extremely close to His people in the Old Testament—He’s sending Isaiah walking through the streets where the common people live. This holy, untouchable God is sending His prophet out to go and encourage all the little people—the everyday nobodies who are probably wondering if God even notices that they care about Him. Yes, He does, and anyone who really listens to what the prophets are saying will walk away with a smile on their faces and a new surge of energy in their souls. Yes, they will keep fighting the good fight. Yahweh is with them. He’s backing them up. He’s planning a great reward for them, and one day He’s going to grind the faces of all these idol worshiping jerks into the ground. So there.

We’re going to miss these prophets as they fade out of view during the rise of King Manasseh. But there are others speaking during these times—countless others whose names have never been written down and whose messages were completely lost. But by now we know what those messages would have sounded like, and we know that God is right there in the midst of the moral muck, encouraging His faithful remnant to hang on. What an awesome God.

LOOKING AHEAD

So then, are we ready to switch gears and talk about Manasseh? This king will be the worst that Judah has ever seen. Remember nasty Jeroboam—Israel’s first king and the one who made those stupid golden calf gods? Yahweh was so furious that He swore He would one day destroy all of Israel because of Jeroboam’s sins. Well, Manasseh is going to be the Jeroboam of Judah. The wickedness of this king is going to be so unchecked that Yahweh will announce His patience with Judah has come to an end. It is because of Manasseh that God decides to utterly destroy the entire southern kingdom—including the great city of Jerusalem and the grand Temple that King Solomon built. What would cause a God who is jealous for glory to tear down His own magnificent Temple? We’ll find out in our next lesson.

UP NEXT: Know Your Bible Lesson 26: The Last Straw

Click here to see all the lessons in this series.

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